by Russell Hanson
Coral Gables, FL – The Miami Hurricanes came into tonight’s matchup against Stephen F. Austin still without knowing the status of Dewan Hernandez. However, just like the last game, it didn’t matter very much. Ebuka Izundu, or “Buka”, asserted himself early and often in the Canes dominating 96-58 victory over Stephen F Austin. The 6’10” senior from Charlotte, NC had a double-double in the first half on his way to 22 points on 11-13 shooting, 18 boards, 3 assists and 3 steals. When asked what lit a fire under him tonight, Buka credited “Coach L for getting on me at practice”. He went on to say that Larranaga told him to assert himself and look to score every time he touched the ball.
The Hurricanes got off to a fast start again tonight pulling out to an 11-5 lead early in the first quarter. Chris Lykes was electric as always scoring 10 of his 20 points in the first half while dishing out 5 assists. Miami has mentioned their renewed emphasis on defense as evidenced by their “Duke floor slap” to start each defensive possession. This strategy has worked very well so far this season as the Canes forced 5 turnovers and had 2 blocks less than 10 minutes into the game. The first thing Coach Larranaga mentioned in his post-game press conference was that “The stat of the night was at halftime when we had zero turnovers.” Coach L then went on to praise Chris Lykes and Zach Johnson on their ability to set the pace and protect the ball, “against a team that’s pressuring, that’s denying, gambling on passes, trapping the ball handlers…”
This is the second game in a row that Miami has not trailed as they went into the locker room for halftime up 53 – 32. Unlike the Lehigh game, Miami refused to let Stephen F. Austin even come close as they opened the second half on a 13-3 run including a Rondo-esque behind the back fake into a layup by Chris Lykes to put Miami up 62-34 with 15:36 remaining. The continued dominance of Izundu allowed Miami to continue pulling away eventually winning by 38 points.
Anthony Lawrence, in his 100th game as a Miami Hurricane, finished with 18pts, while fellow senior, Zach Johnson contributed 15pts with 4ast and 3reb. Vasiljevic continues to be streaky as there were long stretches where he couldn’t get going followed by an explosion of points in rapid succession. DJ ended the game with 17pts. Waardenburg and Gak had very quiet nights statistically but did their part on the defensive end of the floor by making it hard for the Lumberjacks to penetrate.
The Hurricanes once again held their opponent to less than 40% shooting and only allowed double digit points from two of the opposing players: Bogues (14) and Nicholas (17). The Hurricanes forced a total of 19 turnover to their 8 and outrebounded Stephen F. Austin 41 to 34. Miami also made Stephen F. Austin pay on the offensive glass by collecting 17 offensive rebounds and turning them into 17 second chance points vs. the Lumberjack’s 11.
If there’s anything on the stat sheet that the Canes can improve on, it’s free throw shooting as they only shot 61% from the charity stripe.
In the post-game press conference, Coach Larranaga was also asked his opinion on the Hurricanes schedule this season to which he replied: “…you get 12 non-conference. What we [Miami] try to do in the non-conference is play both high major teams and teams that come from a variety of leagues that we think will do well in their own conference.” Larranaga also went on to talk about how incredibly difficult it is to get big teams to come play in Miami, “it’s impossible. No, they’re not going to come here. Scheduling is like recruiting. Trying to get a kid to sign with you is really hard trying to get a high major team to come here, to play a home and home…Do you know who we get? The ACC-Big Ten team…because its mandatory.” This was an interesting insight into the challenges that teams face when attempting to strengthen their schedule. Strength of schedule will not be an issue at all for Miami as they play 13 teams that were in the NCAA Tournament last year and play in the ACC which boasts 7 top 25 teams, including 3 in the top 10.
Miami will return to action on Saturday, November 17th against Bethune-Cookman at home before heading to Anaheim, CA to play in the Wooden Classic. The Bethune-Cookman game is scheduled to tip off at 2pm at the Watsco Center.